With On-Line Chat, a Few Extra Words Go a Long Way

online chat
Image by marioanima via Flickr

Our group goes beyond call monitoring to provide Service Quality Assessment for a client’s e-mail and/or on-line chat communication. The process is virtually the same. We define the key behaviors or service elements that will consistently meet and exceed the customer’s expectations and drive increased satisfaction. They are important, but often overlooked, communication channels. Your email and chat correspondence can make (or break) customer satisfaction just like a phone call. Take my experience today, for example:

Before we were married, I sponsored a child in a third world country through a charitable organization. It’s a great experience and my support quickly became a joint venture as my wife got involved. Her name, however, had never been added to the account. So, while making an on-line donation I noticed that there was an on-line chat option and figured it was a good time to add her name to the account.

Here is a transcript (names changed):

Mitzi: Thank you for contacting ORGANIZATION. How may I assist you today?
Tom: Hi Mitzi. I’m wondering how I can get my wife’s name added to my account. I started sponsorship before I was married, but now we are both involved in sponsoring our child and I’d like her name included.
Mitzi: I am happy to assist you with that!
(I feel like there was about a 4-5 minute wait here) 
Mitzi: What is your wife’s name?
Tom: Wendy.
(I feel like there was another 3-4 minute wait)
Mitzi: I am working on this, just a moment.
(I timed this wait at about 6 minutes)
Mitzi: I submitted the paper work on this. I appreciate your patience.
Tom: Great. Thanks!
(Waited briefly for a response)
Tom: Do I need to do anything else? How long does it take?
Mitzi: You shoul see the change gradually… in the next 4 to 6 weeks everything should have her name on it.
Tom: Wonderful. Thanks for your help!
Mizti: Thank you for chatting with me. I welcome your feedback. Please click here to complete a 15 second survey.

The on-line rep was pleasant, professional and did a nice job.  My issue, as far as I know, has been resolved. It was a good experience, but it wasn’t a great experience. There are a couple of key things that would have left me far more satisfied:

  • Be sensitive to my time. Our customer satisfaction research shows that time related elements (e.g. quickness reaching a rep, answers without being placed on hold, or timeliness of follow up) are a growing driver of customer satisfaction across many customer segments. There were long gaps of time between responses that left me wondering what was happening on the other end. A quick statement to let me know what was going on, or to give me a time frame would have eased my anxiety and impatience.
  • Don’t just tell me what you did; tell me what I can expect. The on-line rep told me that she submitted the paperwork, but I had to guess what that meant. My initial thought was that I might have to wait on-line while it was processed. Rather than anticipating my questions, I was left having to pull it out of her.
  • Courtesy and friendliness are sometimes more important in text than on the phone. CSRs in a call center have the inflection of their voice to communicate a courteous tone, but written communication can take on an abrupt feeling when it’s void of courtesy. Adding a “please” when making a request or using the customers name (especially when they use yours) can turn a black and white exchange into a pleasant conversation.
  • Make sure you’ve answered all my questions. At the end of the chat I was left wondering if it was over. By asking if I had any other questions, it would have clued me in that the issue was resolved while offering to go the extra mile and help with other needs.

Here’s the transcript again, but I’ve rewritten it the way I would have appreciated experiencing it:

Mitzi: Thank you for contacting ORGANIZATION. How may I assist you today?
Tom: Hi Mitzi. I’m wondering how I can get my wife’s name added to my account. I started sponsorship before I was married, but now we are both involved in sponsoring our child and I’d like her name included.
Mitzi: I am happy to assist you with that! And, congratulations on getting married!Please bear with me. It will take a few minutes to access your account and the appropriate forms.
Mitzi: Thanks for waiting, Tom. May I please have your wife’s name?
Tom: Wendy.
Mitzi: Thank you. It will take me 5 minutes or so to fill out the appropriate forms.
Mitzi: Sorry for the delay. I am still working on this, just a moment.
Mitzi: I appreciate your patience. I submitted the paper work on this. You should see the change gradually… in the next 4 to 6 weeks everything should have her name on it.
Tom: Great. Thanks!
Mitzi: Any other questions I can answer for you, Tom?
Tom: No. Wonderful. Thanks for your help!
Mizti: Thank you for chatting with me, and for you and Wendy sponsoring a child. I welcome your feedback. Please click here to complete a 15 second survey.

A few extra words and sentences, properly placed, can turn a cut-and-paste chat experience into one that is personable, friendly, professional and polite.

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  4 comments for “With On-Line Chat, a Few Extra Words Go a Long Way

  1. Ross Creasy
    October 27, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    Can’t completlely agree with you on this one Tom. chat reps often have several interactions going concurrently, which periodically precludes the bridge statements that you wanted to hear.

    IMO, many of the statements the rep made sound like pre typed statements tied to a hot key for easy delivery. Perhaps the centre just need to align the statemens with the chat handle times to ensure the “moment” is a “few minutes”

    my .02

    • Tier_1_Support_Lou
      October 27, 2010 at 7:38 pm

      I agree that it may not be easy for every representative to accomplish, but that doesn’t diminish the importance of those few extra words when trying to personalize the experience.

  2. December 17, 2010 at 2:55 am

    You really stressed out your point here. I’m very particular with courteous manners especially in on-line chats. It feels good to be recognized and also I prefer dealing again or investing my time again with companies or organizations that have nice and courteous on-line representatives.

  3. Cameron Ford67
    November 1, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    Great story, Tom. I am 100% confident that the reason you got the short conversation and the long delays is that companies using live chat do so in order to serve more customers with the same number of CSR’s. In this case, I bet Mitzi was serving 4-6 other customers via chat while working on your request. It probably took 4-5 minutes for you to come back up in the rotation on her screen to let you know she submitted the request.

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